Workforce Development / Leadership Skills

Are childhood behaviors undermining your professional success?

Your potential is not just about technical skill. Become what you can become in all aspects.

By R. Russell Rhinehart for Control

I suspect every one of us acquired behaviors in the childhood process of finding our way that are dysfunctional for us as adults. We’re blind to our automatic use of them, and to the impact it has on our functionality within the enterprise. We don’t understand that our approach is just the result of childhood choices. Further, the accomplishments by age 25 or 30 (degree, career, promotion, family, house) often leads one to think they have finally arrived at complete adulthood, diverting them from seeing the true work left to become what they can be. By contrast, know that you can grow.

Working harder would mean digging in deeper to those dysfunctional behaviors. Working smarter would mean shedding them, and acting differently. There are two questions here. One is, “How can you know what to shed when the behavior is so ingrained that you think it’s natural, and as necessary as breathing?” As an answer, ask others about what they see in you. This doesn’t have to be just in an annual appraisal session from your supervisor.

The second question is, “How to act differently, and not violate your values.” First off, behavior is mostly all acting. We all have similar biological bodies and mental intellect, but we acquired a personality in the childhood role we fell into. So, acting one way or another is not a violation of your values, it is just a way. The reason for your particular way isn’t based on adult or professional values or ethics, but on a child seeking to maximize personal gain within a particular environment. Being true to yourself sounds like a virtuous thing, but not when it’s a defense of the privilege to retain behaviors chosen by the kid you once were.

When seeking to rise above counterproductive behaviors, don’t try to change too many aspects—you’ll confuse yourself. And, don’t think behavior change will be an instant thing. You’ve taken many years to develop and refine your manner. Use the guidance of others (peers, supervisors and subordinates) to see what they see. When you understand it and can identify it by yourself, seek to act in an alternate manner.

To learn more, read "Your potential is not just about technical skill" from Control.